CLEVELAND — He's not a rookie anymore, but in one important way, perhaps the most important way, Alex Kirilloff says he feels like it's 2021 again.

His right wrist, Kirilloff said, "feels like it did before" he tore ligaments in it, almost exactly two years — and two major surgeries — ago. "It's getting really close to that."

Close enough, in fact, to be back in a major league lineup, and that happened Saturday when he grounded out in the seventh inning of the Twins' game vs. the Guardians. The former first-round pick had tried to reach that point often enough that manager Rocco Baldelli is careful not to heap goals or predictions on the 25-year-old.

"I'm not going to make any splashy comment. I'm very happy to see him here, and I'm pumped that he's healthy," the manager said. "But the last thing I want to do is put any sort of massive expectation on him."

Fair enough. But Kirilloff sounded optimistic that his injury is behind him, the recovery from 2021's ligament surgery and last summer's much more risky bone surgery all but complete. And after batting .316 with three homers in 10 games at Class AAA St. Paul, he is confident he is ready to face major league pitching again.

"In spring training, there were definitely a lot of things to work out, with how everything was feeling, but it was kind of week-by-week," he said. "Once I got into live at-bats and games, things started to flow the way I was hoping they would. After that, it was pretty good overall."

Still, he was surprised the Twins summoned him so quickly after optioning him to the Saints on Monday.

"I was just hitting on the field [at CHS Field], just taking batting practice, when Toby [Gardenhire, the Saints manager] yelled over and told me," Kirilloff said. "But it feels great. I'm just ready to continue what I've been doing up to this point."

He will play mostly at first base, Baldelli said, shifting Joey Gallo to the outfield, where Gallo won Gold Gloves in 2020 and 2021.

Winder out, Alcala in

The Twins sent righthander Josh Winder to Class AAA St. Paul not because he was pitching poorly but because he wasn't pitching at all.

Winder spent eight days with the team after being activated from the injured list, but the reliever was called upon only once, to face seven batters last Sunday.

"We've played so many really tight ballgames, we've ended up using a lot of our one-inning guys, our late-inning guys," Baldelli said. "The guys that give us more length, they haven't touched the mound. … We've just got to get him out there so he can throw."

He will do it for the Saints on a regular schedule, for now, just to keep his arm strong. In the meantime, the Twins recalled righthander Jorge Alcala, in hopes of giving some of the one-inning relievers a break.

Alcala appeared in six games and pitched 10 innings earlier in the season for the Twins, and has been fighting command issues, having walked five hitters. He didn't solve that problem at St. Paul, walking four batters in 4⅔ innings, but the team is optimistic that his increased velocity will lead to better outcomes, Baldelli said.

"Finding the zone a little bit more was obviously part of it, but also, his stuff ticked up" beyond the 93 mph fastballs he was throwing in April with the Twins. "He's already found a little more of the good stuff that he has."

Feast or famine

The Twins entered Saturday with the fourth-most home runs in the American League, and Max Kepler's sixth-inning blast extended their franchise-record streak of games with a home run to 18. But Baldelli said he doesn't believe the Twins are a team that will rely on homers to dominate their offense.

Though those homers have certainly saved them on this road trip. The Twins entered Saturday having played 40 innings on the trip, and collected a hit in just 11 of them. They had scored 15 runs in the first four games of the trip, despite amassing only 16 hits.

"It has been [the home run] for the first month, but we have a long way to go before we know what our offensive identity is going to look like," he said. "We've been very up and down offensively throughout the year, and the most consistent we can get, the better we're going to be. We're making adjustments to try to find ways to score."